This week, Airbus has announced that the A380 MSN1 test aircraft is earmarked for a new role: to take the lead on testing the technologies that will be vital to bringing the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.

The multi-year demonstrator programme has officially been launched with the objective to test a variety of hydrogen technologies both on the ground and in the air. The ZEROe demonstrator is a giant leap forward in the company’s mission to bring zero-emission aviation to reality.

Mathias Andriamisaina, Airbus ZEROe Demonstrator Leader says, “The A380 MSN1 is an excellent flight laboratory platform for new hydrogen technologies. It’s a safe and reliable platform that is highly versatile to test a wide range of zero-emission technologies. In addition, the platform can comfortably accommodate the large flight test instrumentation that will be needed to analyse the performance of the hydrogen in the hydrogen-propulsion system.”

The ZEROe demonstrator will now be the next to test groundbreaking zero-emission technologies. It will carry four liquid hydrogen tanks in a caudal position, as well as a hydrogen combustion engine mounted along the rear fuselage.

The liquid hydrogen distribution system will feed into a conditioning system in which the liquid hydrogen will transform into its gaseous form before it is introduced into the engine where it is combusted for propulsion.

The hydrogen combustion engine is a key part of the ZEROe demonstrator programme. Engine manufacturers have been working hand-in-hand with Airbus on demonstrator programmes for decades. And the ZEROe demonstrator will be no exception.

CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran, is set to develop the hydrogen combustion engine and prepare it for testing.

Each technology component – the hydrogen tanks, hydrogen combustion engine and liquid hydrogen distribution system – will be tested individually on the ground. Then, the complete system will be tested first on the ground and then subsequently in flight.

The first flight is expected to take place in the next five years.